BRISBANE’s rise as a global destination is not a consequence of the city winning the bid to host the 2032 Summer Olympics, but a strategy of upgrading riverfront precincts and its business event appeal across Australia and worldwide, according to two leaders working at the heart of the Queensland capital’s development.
Crucial to that strategy has been to continue attracting “some of Australia’s best thinkers” in terms of academics, scientists, entrepreneurs and technology innovators to this “dynamic environment that will allow them to demonstrate what they can do with their own skills around innovation”, Anthony Ryan, CEO of Brisbane Economic Development Agency, told MIX Meetings during the AIME trade show.
The city’s medical research institutions have already played a vital role part in attracting international conferences to Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre with the city’s central district either side of the river seeing investment in hotels, restaurants, leisure and business infrastructure. All this began well before Brisbane’s Olympic dream.
“We see that the 2032 runway is taking place right now. From a Brisbane perspective, we think it’s not about the six weeks,” Ryan said, referring to the duration of the Olympics. “It’s not about the Olympics events itself and the Paralympics. What it’s actually doing is changing the way that Brisbane is viewed.
“We are a genuinely contemporary city… already a global destination. What it also does is accelerate everything that a city requires that would normally take a 30- to 40-year runway.”
Brisbane’s appeal to business event visitors is being underpinned by a AU$14 billion pipeline of investments. Among the new venues and other landmarks are:
- Queen’s Wharf – an integrated resort development set for a phase reopening in the second half of this year.
- The Star Grand, Rosewood and Dorsett are among the hotels in the Queen’s Wharf development set to deliver 1,000 additional guest rooms for the city.
- The AU$2.1 billion Dexus Waterfront Brisbane project is scheduled to open from 2027. Along with Queen’s Wharf, the new landmarks will transform 8.4 hectares of public space along Brisbane’s riverfront.
- At the South Bank cultural precinct, a 1,500-seat theatre set to open next year will make Brisbane-based Queensland Performing Arts Centre the largest of its kind in Australia.
- The Brisbane Powerhouse – the city’s home for contemporary culture – is preparing to open a year-round outdoor cinema and theatre.
- Cross-river transport connections include the Brisbane Metro due to begin operations next year, Cross River Rail, a 10km overland and underground system set for 2025. There will also be Green Bridges connecting popular inner-city precincts and improving Brisbane’s walkability.
Lorelle Chittick, Brisbane Economic Development Agency’s general manager for tourism, business and major events, said a key strategy was to shift the traditional perceptions of Brisbane as a “gateway city” for visitors heading north or south to Queensland’s beaches.
“Brisbane is really standing on its own as a destination. That’s a lot of work we have done there and in securing the Olympics, Chittick said.
“In terms of new industry products and experiences that will interest delegates and visitors, once they come in for a conference, we ultimately want then to the able to come earlier, stay later, to enjoy that nature on our doorstep and get that truly authentic Australian experience.”
As has been proven in other cities, notably Singapore with Marina Bay, rejuvenating riverfronts enables destinations to increase their appeal to business event groups. This has notably been the case with Nu Skin China’s choice of Brisbane for 1,000 of its incentive program next year.
“A lot of capital cities almost turn their back on their waterfronts and rivers. These changes in Brisbane really has the river at our core, so we’ve really embraced the river and are looking at new cruise operators and how to activate the river to make it a means for public transport,” Chittick said.
Some of Brisbane’s most influential figures have joined forces to help fast-track the city’s pursuit of investment, business growth, tourism and events opportunities over the coming decade. The Better Brisbane Alliance, an initiative from Brisbane Economic Development Agency, will use its industry expertise and experience to help supercharge the growth of Brisbane’s economy, which is already forecast to be worth $239 billion by 2041.
Lord Mayor Adrian Schrinner said Brisbane is well-known as a destination with enormous talent and potential and the Brisbane 2032 Olympic and Paralympic Games will help expand that reputation globally.
“The Better Brisbane Alliance brings together some of the brightest minds at the forefront of the city’s prosperity, across key sectors including the arts, business, education, events, First Nations culture, hospitality, property, trade and tourism,” Schrinner said.
Main picture: A computer-generated image of the Neville Bonner Bridge taking shape across the Brisbane River at Queens Wharf